I snapped this rather striking piece of Milanese public art outside of yesterday's Salvatore Ferragamo show (along with four thousand other blog-happy cameraphone users), just as we pulled into our final 24-hours of shows here in Milan. I couldn't help but compare it to the similarly empathic and aggressive mood of the Italian collections for S/S 2011 - it felt as if Milan was dragging itself back from the brink of extinction. Well, maybe that is a touch too dramatic, but certainly it felt Milan's designers were asserting its place as a premier fashion capital and a must-see on the collections circuit.
This season, Milan pushed for a healthy six-day slot in the fashion week schedule, after the A/W 2010 shows were shown across five days, with the vast majority of major shows crammed into just three. Comparing the breakneck pace of last season with this one, the mood amongst the press and buyers in Milan is entirely different. And whats more, it's been reflected on the catwalks. Confidence has been the overriding tone of the shows, whether it was the ballsy confidence of Frida Giannini's North African luxury for Gucci, Raf Simons' bold experiments in colour and abstract form at Jil Sander, those riotous printed fringe-frocks at Versace or, indeed, the confidence of Dolce e Gabbana in wiping the slate clean for a new decade. The looks haven't always worked (I for one would have preferred a bit more showmanship and less schmaltz at Dolce, but I'm a maximalist at heart), but the confidence behind them was convincing.
Stand out for me was Prada, a gutsy, love-it-or-lump-it show where Miuccia Prada wilfully pushed us to the edge of bad taste, and then some. At my re-see, I was struck by the inventiveness of the details, the neat use of hardy uniform cotton-twill in bright, childish colours to craft shapes that looked part Balenciaga, part Paul Poiret (echoed by those couture cocoons offered in Raf Simons' Jil Sander collection). And it's weird how people got stuck on tiny fragments of the show - maybe it's part and parcel of digital fashion and the culture of the accessible accessory that those details immediately rendered in high-res close-up during the show stream (and on all those very many macro-sized shots) become the focal-point of our attentions, rather than the overall look. Case in point are the Prada sunglasses, with their whirly-swirly ormolu earpieces in pastels outlined in black - they were one-off prototypes that had already been sent back to the factory, but everyone was clamouring to see them. I was assured they will be going into production - music to the ears of consumers and retailers alike.